Surya-Narayana Temple At Puri


Mar 10, SAMBALPUR, ORISSA (SUN) — The temple of Surya-Narayana is situated in the northern side inner enclosure or Kurma- Bedha of the temple of Jagannatha at Puri. It is located close to the east of Laksmi temple and is adjacent to the eastern side of the Navagraha temple. [1] The temple of Surya-Narayana (Dharma raja) contains three parts contiguous to each other [2]. The present Surya deul was earlier dedicated to Indra Devata, whose image is found inside the sanctum. [3] According to G.C. Tripathi, this temple was also originally the seat of Dharma Devata. [4] It is the only single shrine of Surya Devata in the Purusottama Ksetra, so from the religious point of view this temple has some importance in the cultural history of Orissa. Those devotees who come to visit Lord Jagannatha also visit Surya Devata of the temple complex.

The temple of Surya-Narayana consists of three structures, including the Vimana, Jagamohana and Natamandapa. It faces to the eastern direction. From the architectural point of view, this temple has not so much importance in Orissa. All the structures of the temple are built from sandstone, which is locally called Baulamala pathara.


The vimana of the Surya temple is a Rekha deul and its height is about 55 feet from the ground level. It has four vertical parts, the pistha, bada, gandi and mastaka. The structure of the Vimana is sapta-ratha in plan. It stands on a low platform of 2 feet in height. The pistha or the platform of the vimana consists of three horizontal mouldings, which are relieved with scroll-works, flower designs and jali works. The base of the pistha is a square of 35 feet on each side. The bada is panchanga type i.e., having five component parts, including the pabhaga, tala jangha, bandhana, upara jangha and baranda. The pabhaga consists of conventional mouldings of khura, kumbha, patta, kani and basanta.

Asta Dipkalas

The niches and the intervening recesses of the pabhaga are relieved with khakhara mundis, scroll works, jali works, flower designs, flower medallions, creepers with flower devices and Naga pilasters etc. The niches of the upara jangha are decorated with khakhara mundis, which contain the figures of asta dikpalas and the royal court scenes.

The figures of the asta dikpalas are seated on their respective mounts and placed in their respective directions. The intervening recesses of the tala jangha are filled with simha-vidalas, alasakanyas, kirtimukhas, female figures surrounded by some sakhis, scroll works and creepers with the flowers.

The niches of the upper jangha are decorated with pidha mundis, which contain the figures of the female counter parts of the asta-dikpalas. They are all in seated postures on their respective mounts and directions. The intervening recesses between the pagas of the upper jangha are filled with alasakanyas, lady with child, preaching scene of lady, standing female figures with tree branches (woman-tree motifs), erotic scenes, flower medallions, creepers with flowers, Naga kanyas and jali works etc. All the parsva Devata niches of the bada are now completely vacant. There is only a small image of Mahavir found in the southern wall of the bada. The baranda of the bada consists of ten horizontal mouldings.

The curvilinear superstructure is surmounted on the gandi of the vimana. The gandi displays five pagas or rathas to outwards. All the pagas of the gandi are elegantly carved with scroll works, jali works and creepers with small flower designs. The kanika pagas of the gandi contain ten bhumi amalas in its surface. The base of the eastern side Raha paga of the gandi contains an angasikhara, which is surmounted by the Gaja-simha motif. The deula carini figures are inserted in four cardinal directions of the beki above the rahas. Female figures are finely fixed on the top of the kanika pagas of the gandi. The projecting lions are not found from the top of the kanika pagas. Due to the absence of the projecting lions in the respective places of the temple, M.M. Ganguli has stated that a peculiarity with the temple is that the figure of projecting lion is not noticeable here as is usually met with in the temples of Orissa. [5]

The mastaka of the vimana consists of beki, amalakasila, khapuri and kalasa. Both ayudha and dhvaja are not inserted in their respective places of the mastaka. The sanctum preserves the image of Surya-Narayana as the presiding deity of the temple. The temple priests indicate that the presiding deity in question is the original Surya Narayana image of the famous Konarka temple. With the fall of the Konark temple, the priest arranged its shifting to Puri for proper preservation. [6] It is also stated in Madala Panji that the installed image of Sun God was brought from Konark temple by King Narasimha Deva of Bhoi dynasty (A.D. 1622 to 1647 A.D). [7]

According to R.K. Dash, the idol of Bhaskar, the Sun God, was brought from Konark temple by Marahatta ruler Raghabji and kept secretly in this temple. [8] On the basis of the tradition, Prof. K.S. Behera has mentioned that the image of Surya, worshipped in the temple was brought from Konark temple in the first quarter of the 17th century A.D. (1600 A.D. to 1625 A.D.) [9] As the image of Surya Narayana stands on a pedestal of stone, carved with the figures of seven horses; this is certainly the figure of the Sun God. [10], so the presiding deity of the temple is Surya Narayana. The image has been installed on the simahasana at 2 feet in height. He holds a full-blown lotus in each hand. There is another stone image found in the backside of the presiding deity (Sun God).

Within the sanctum, a partially disfigured image has been lodged behind a masonry wall. There is lot of controversy among the scholars as well as the archaeologists with regard to the identity of that image, which is installed in the backside of the presiding deity (Sun God). Though there is a stone image of Surya at the centre of the sanctum, just behind the image there is another stone image. Some scholars attribute it to be the figure of Indra. Chintamani Acharya specifically states that it is the temple of Indra and the broken image of Indra (backside of the presiding deity) still exists there. [11]

According to R.K. Dash, in the temple of Surya Devata, the broken image of Indra is still there but in front of it a small wall has been raised and the image of Sun God is placed there. [12] According to Surendra Mohanty, there is no authentic evidence regarding the name of the backside image of the presiding deity (Sun God). [13] According to Jagabandhu Padhi, it appears as if the image of Surya has been deliberately installed very close to the other image to hide it from public vision. [14]

According to P.K. Pattnaik this image of Buddhist origin is kept just behind that of Surya and cannot be seen except with the help of bright light. This is popularly associated with Indra, which does not appear to be correct. [15] He has also not accepted it as the image of Indra. According to M.M. Ganguli, behind the stone background of the Surya-Narayana image is seen a beautiful image of a mutilated Buddha in a sitting posture with several carved figures, all in black chlorite stone. He also states that the importance of the temple is due to the nature of the deity enshrined therein. [16]

This scholar also proposes that in the backside of the presiding deity (Sun God) is probably an image of Buddha. This backside image (Buddha) is seated in padmasana posture. The entire slab of the deity is 4 feet in height. The background slab of the deity is decorated with trefoil arch, makara head at the base and the kirtimukha motif at the apex. Two flying apsara figures are depicted on both top corners of the slab. Some female dancing figures are carved in both sides of the makara head arch. The sculptural features of the backside image (Buddha) indicate that it is a fine workmanship of the Ganga Art of Orissa.

The image of Buddha is larger than the presiding deity, the Sun God. From the artistic point of view, the image of Buddha is very beautiful. There is no other Buddha image except this one in the premises of the Jagannatha temple. Out of the ten incarnations of Vishnu, Jayadeva has identified Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu. M.M.Ganguli has stated that the image of Buddha had been removed from the original Buddhist shrine of the temple complex and in later period, it has been kept there. [17]

Both the images of the presiding deity (Surya-Narayana) and the backside deity (Buddha) are worshipped in the sanctum. A few more brass idols of Surya and his consort are also under worship in this temple. The sanctum has one doorway towards the Jagamohana. Two circular pillars are erected as the jambs of the doorway. The door lintel of the sanctum is completely undecorated. The figures of the Navagrahas are finely carved on the architrave above the doorway lintel. They are all in seated postures with respective attributes in their hands. The Navagraha slab is also relieved with scroll work and flower designs.

Jagamohana The Jagamohana of the Surya temple is a pidha deul and its height is about 40 feet from the ground level. The structure is erected on the plinth of 2 feet in height. The bada of the Jagamohana is panchanga type i.e., having five fold divisions such as pabhaga, tala jangha, bandhana, upara jangha and baranda. All the component parts of the bada are devoid of the decorative ornamentation. The pyramidal superstructure is surmounted on the gandi of the Jagamohana. It consists of two tiers or potalas; the lower and the upper potalas, which contain four and three pidhas respectively. The middle portion of each potala is decorated with pidha mastaka design on each side. Dopichha lions and mandira carini figures are also completely absent in their respective places.

The mastaka of the Jagamohana consists of beki and ghanta (bell-shaped member), above which there is another beki, amalakasila, khapuri and kalasa. Ayudha and dhvaja are not inserted in the kalasa of the mastaka. The middle portion of the floor of the Jagamohana is occupied by the images of Rabi (Surya) and Candra, which are made of astadhatu or a mixture of eight metals. The western inner left wall of the Jagamohana contains a figure of Jarasura and the right side of the western inner wall contains a figure of Chhaya in its niche. The northwest corner of the Jagamohana is occupied by the Kandarpa Ratha 'made of wood' in which Krishna is sitting and Gopis are depicted in seated postures on different parts of the Ratha. The Jagamohana has four doorways, which are all devoid of the decorative ornamentations.

Natamandapa The natamandapa of the Surya temple is a pidha deul and its height is about 20 feet from the ground level of the temple complex. It is also erected on the platform of 2 feet height. The base of the structure is rectangular in size and it measures approximately 35 feet in length and 15 feet in width. The bada portion of the natamandapa is completely undecorated. The pyramidal superstructure is surmounted on the gandi of the natamandapa. It consists of three bell-shaped pidhas. There is only kalasa installed on the top of the upper pidha. So all the elements of mastaka are not found from the upper pidha.

The Archaeological Survey of India, Puri Circle, has de-plastered all the above structures of the Surya temple in 1990's. As documented by by Jivan Pattnaik, the thickness of lime plaster over these structures was maximum 45 cm.. [18]

Date of the Temple There is no authentic evidence regarding the approximate date of the construction period of the Surya temple inside the temple premises of Lord Jagannatha. On the basis of the architectural features, J.B. Padhi has mentioned that the temple seems to have been constructed sometime in the 13th or 14th century A.D. [19] On the basis of the architectural style and backside images of the sanctum, the construction period of the Surya temple can be tentatively assigned to the first half of the 14th century A.D. Most probably, it was constructed some time after the construction of the main Jagannatha temple of Puri The temple was originally dedicated to the backside image (Buddha) of the sanctum. This temple was converted to Surya deul in the first half of the 17th century A.D.

It is also very difficult to know about the real builder of this temple. There are as many as four of the kings of the Ganga dynasty bearing the name Bhanu Deva (Bhanu is synonymous of Sun God). It testifies that Ganga rulers of Orissa were the followers of Surya Devata. But there is no other evidence about their patronage for the construction of this shrine. The structures of the vimana and the jagamohana seem to have been constructed during the same period, but the natamandapa was built in the later period.

Rituals and Festivals:

Many of the rituals of the Jagannatha temple are associated with Sun worship. Worship of Surya-Narayana is conducted in the temple near Mukti mandapa, not here (at the place of Surya temple). [20]

The temple has a special feature that all the betrothal oath ceremonies are rightly performed here. [21] A special feature of this temple is that the marriage negotiations are done here. The parents of both bride and bridegroom take a vow before Sun God to get their children married to each other.

Special Puja is done in the temple on Sundays, Lunar and Solar Eclipses and Sambadasami. The Car Festival of Sun God is also observed on the 6th day of the bright fortnight of Magha. [22]

It is known from the above discussion that the temple of Surya-Narayana is the single shrine of the Purusottama Ksetra (Puri) enshrining Sun god. Both from the architectural and cultural points of views, this temple is thought to be of less importance than the Sun temple of Konark, except that the Deitie of Surya-Narayana from Konark is now residing here. The presence of the shrine indicates that some rulers of Puri were also the devotees of Sun God (Dharma Devata).

Some scholars also suggest that before the installation of the Sun God of Konarka, the temple was dedicated to Lord Indra. Whether or not that be the case, the temple was not earlier dedicated to Sun God. After the installation of Sun God of Konark, the temple came to be known as the Surya temple. The existence of this shrine in the Jagannatha temple complex suggests that the Sun worship was also prevalent in the Purusottama Ksetra during the medieval period of history.


1. N. Senapati and D.C. Kuanr, Orissa District Gazetters; Puri, (Ed.) Govt. Press of Orissa, 1977, p. 783. See G.C. Tripathy, Sri Jagannatha Temple At a Glance, Puri, 1989, p.13.
2. M.M. Ganguli, Orissa And Her Remains, (Ancient and Medieval), Calcutta, 1912, p. 428.
3. J.B. Padhi, The Holy Land of Puri, Puri, 2003, p. 118.
4. G.C. Tripathi, Op-Cit., p. 13.
5. M.M. Ganguli, Op-Cit. p. 428.
6. R.P. Mohapatra, Archaeology in Orissa, Sites and Monuments, Vol. 1, New Delhi, 1986, p. 164.
7. A.B. Mohanty, Madala Panji; Prachi Edition, Cuttack, 1940, p. 68. See K.N. Mahapatra, Khurda Itihasa (Oriya), p. 74.
8. R.K. Dash, Legends of Jagannatha Puri, Bhadrak, 1978, p. 89.
9. K.S. Behera, (Ed.) "The Temple Complex and Jagannatha At Puri", in UHRJ, Vol. vi, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, 1995. p. 28
10. M.M. Ganguli, Op-Cit, p. 429.
11. Chintamani Acharya, Puri, Utkal Sahitya Press, Cuttack, 1941, p. 72.
12. R.K. Dash, Op-Cit, p. 89.
13. S. Mohanty, Utkala Yuge Yuge, Cuttack, p. 82.
14. J.B. Padhi, Sri Jagannatha At Puri, Puri, 2000.
15. P.K. Pattnaik, "Historic Monuments in the Ksetra of Jagannatha", in M.N. Das (Ed.), Side Lights on History and Culture of Orissa, Cuttack, 1977, p. 514.
16. M.M. Ganguli, Op-Cit., p. 429.
17. Ibid.
18. J. Pattnaik, "Conservation Problems Remedial Measures of Lord Jagannatha Temple, Puri- An Overview" in Journal of Srimandira; Puri, Ratha yatra Special Issue, Puri, 2003. p.64.
19. J.B. Padhi, Op-Cit., 141.
20. R.C. Mishra, Purusottama Ksetra, Puri, 2003, p.119.
21. G.C. Tripathy, Op-Cit., p.13.
22. Pt. S.N. Dash, Jagannatha Mandira and Jagannatha Tatwa (Oriya), Cuttack, 1966, p. 305.


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